“Living on the Ledge” with Jay Wallen at Kentucky and Barkley lakes

Topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days are “bonus fish” to the versatile Tennessee angler.

 

  • Kayak bass fishing star Jay Wallen provides ledge fishing tips
  • Texas rig and Carolina rig worms and heavy jigs are key deep water tools
  • Foot-controlled Mirage Drive on Hobie Pro Angler aids boat control
Jay Wallen, who competed in the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 this spring, is a force to be reckoned with wherever he launches his Hobie Pro Angler 14.

By Mike Pehanich

To WIN summer tournaments often means mining big bass from deep-water “ledges.” Here kayak pro Jay Wallen reveals some of the secrets to “living on the ledge.”

Jay Wallen is a force to be reckoned with in kayak fishing wherever he launches his Pro Angler 14.  But nowhere is the Tennessee angler more feared than at the annual Hobie Bass Open held on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes each June.

His stellar kayak bass tournament record had included two third-place finishes in the Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake already before his HBO victory in 2017. This past June, he notched another Top Ten finish at the event, sponsored by Hobie Cat and the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, placing sixth with a 105.25-inch total.

Kentucky and Barkley lakes have tutored him well. Last year’s lessons earned him a $4,000 winner’s purse and a trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship-7 event, held in April at Lake Vanern in Amal, Sweden.

Wallen is quick to cash in on any hot bite these classic TVA waters might offer, but year-in and year-out, the deep water “ledge” bite on the classic river-bed  and creek-bed structure separates the men from the boys in this tournament competition.

The pattern is familiar on all of the Tennessee River impoundments. Following the spawn – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass gradually retreat to this prime structure. There they feed on roving schools of shad.

“A lot of guys like to fire up a school with a deep-diving crankbait. A swimbait can go with that, too, because you can control its depth,” says Wallen. “But my favorite ways to catch ledge bass are with a jig or a large worm, Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged. There’s just something about feeling that bite!”

Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged worms fished with heavy football jigs are among Jay Wallen’s key baits for ledge bass.

Worms and jigs so rigged give him a shot at bass even when the fish are not in a chasing mood. The beauty is that they will produce during an aggressive bite as well.

At the 2017 Hobie Bass Open championship, Wallen fished a 12-inch Texas-rigged worm behind a ½-ounce bullet sinker on his G. Loomis rods to get his ledge bite going. The bite transitioned to a ¾-ounce football jig with a Zoom Fat Albert soft plastic trailer on Day Two.  For added attraction, he dunked the tail into a garlic flavored Spike-It dip.

“A ½-ounce jig falls more slowly and seems to work better in the 15- to 20-foot range,” says Wallen. “When the sun is up and fish are holding tighter to the bottom, I go to the ¾-ounce jig.”

Kayak fishing has long been associated with shallow water techniques, but anglers like Wallen have brought the kind of deep-water savvy and sophistication to the game generally associated with elite levels of bass boat competition.

Wallen emphasizes the importance of boat control when working the 10- to 30-foot depths common to ledge fishing.  The challenge gets significantly tougher in open water when reservoir wind and current can influence movement of boat and bait. Wallen relies heavily on Hobie’s foot-controlled Mirage Drive for boat control.

“If it weren’t for the Mirage Drive, I wouldn’t be fishing out of a kayak,” he says. “I’ve fished other styles of kayak and drive systems, and I spent too much time controlling my boat and not enough time fishing.”

Back-up plan

Wallen’s strength as a tournament angler stems as much from versatility and ability to adapt, as from mastery of tough techniques.

He looks for secondary ledges along the beds of the Tennessee River tributary creeks when wind and current blow him off favored main lake ledges.

And he is ever ready to cash in on skinny water opportunities in the countless arms and bays of the big impoundments.

“You can’t overlook shallow water opportunities,” he advises, noting that topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days frequently lead to big fish. “Those are bonus fish. Any fish I can catch shallow in the morning amounts to work I don’t need to do later in the day.”

Topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days are “bonus fish” to the versatile Tennessee angler.

Jay Wallen Wins Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake

  • Kentucky Lake, Kentucky
  • Home of Big Bass

The third time was the charm for Jay Wallen of Lexington, Kentucky. After finishing third the past two years, Wallen has battled through to take the Hobie Bass Open win. This was year four of the tournament that took place on Kentucky Lake in Marshall County, Kentucky, June 10-11, 2017.
“I’m so happy I pulled it off so I can go to the Hobie Worlds 7,” commented Jay. “That’s what this whole thing is about. I just couldn’t be happier.”
Wallen went into the final day of the two-day “CPR” (Catch-Photograph-Release) kayak fishing tournament with a very small, one-inch lead. A crowd of anglers was chasing close behind and he felt the pressure. Changing up from day one, he hunted his fish on a ledge farther north, closer to the dam where he’d finished the first day on a furious flurry. However, on the final day the bite proved to be a grinder. He averaged one fish every two hours, but they were good ones.
Wallen’s three-fish daily limit was anchored by a 20-inch largemouth that he said he probably should not have caught. The jig pulled right at the boat, but he got the net under the fish before it hit the water.
“That’s when I knew I had a chance. I didn’t think I had it won, but I had a chance,” he said.
Wallen fished clean, converting all his bites and it proved essential. With just 30 minutes of fishing time left, he culled an 18-incher, giving him a daily total of 56.75 inches. It was just enough. His two-day total of 115.5 inches narrowly beat his closest challenger.
“The biggest thing about this tournament is you compete against your peers and some of the best kayak anglers out there,” Wallen went on to say. “That’s what makes it special. You do this in front of all your peers and a lot of them are happy for you. We’re all for the most part, friends.”
The win earned Wallen a check for $4,000, but it was the trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 that has him most excited. The World’s destination is expected to be announced in July. Wallen is ready, wherever it winds up. “You could put it on the moon for all I care! I’m ready to go, to represent team USA,” he said.
Joshua Stewart of Waverly, Tennessee nearly matched Wallen inch-for-inch, but ultimately finished second with a total of 114.25 inches. He fished a jig in shallow water in the New Johnsonville area of Kentucky Lake. Stewart earned $2,500 and an invitation to the Hobie Fishing Worlds 7. “This is the biggest one, the most meaningful finish of my kayak fishing career,” he said.
Drew Russell of Louisville, Kentucky, rounded out the top three. He earned $1,700. “I was shooting for a top ten finish, so I’m thrilled with third. I’ll be back. We’ll get it next year,” he said of just missing the Hobie Worlds. Russell fished worms and jigs on ledges and points.
The Hobie Bass Open paid out to 12th place. There is always a 100% pay out of angler entry fees in this competition. 115 anglers fished the adult division.
The youth division was won by Jaxton Orr, who compiled an impressive two-day total of 102.25 inches. He was followed by Will Stumbo (95.5 inches) and Cole Kleffman (83.75 inches)
Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hobie Worldwide sponsored the 1st place winner to attend the Hobie Worlds. Additional sponsors included lodging host Kentucky Lake Dam Village State Resort Park, the host city of Calvert, Hobie Polarized, Lowrance, YakAttack, Bassin’ Magazine, RAM Mounts, St. Croix, Daiwa, Power-Pole, Mustad and Gerber.
This year there are two new US and Canadian qualifying events for Hobie Fishing World Championship 7: the Shasta Bass Kayak Classic and the 2nd Annual IKE Foundation Celebrity Pro Am Tournament Kayak Division hosted by Hobie’s own Mike “Ike” Iaconelli. Ike’s event will be special. It will be a star-studded occasion contested on the non-tidal sections of the Delaware River and includes dinner on the illustrious battleship, USS New Jersey.
The full Hobie Fishing Worlds “7” North American qualifying event schedule is as follows:
1) The Shasta Bass Kayak Classic, March 25-26 – 1 qualifying spot
2) The Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Classic, May 18-21 – 1 qualifying spot
3) The Hobie Bass Open, June 9-11 – 2 qualifying spots
4) The Border City Classic, June 24-25 – 2 qualifying spots
5) The 2nd Annual IKE Foundation Celebrity Pro Am Tournament Kayak Division, July 7-8 – 1 qualifying spot
Since 1950, Hobie has been in the business of shaping a unique lifestyle based around fun, water, and innovative quality products. From their worldwide headquarters in Oceanside, California, Hobie Cat Company manufactures, distributes, and markets an impressive collection of eco-sensitive watercraft, with subsidiaries; Hobie Cat Australasia, in Huskisson, NSW, Australia and Hobie Cat Europe, in Toulon, France and independent distributors; Hobie Kayak Europe and Hobie Cat Brasil. These products include an ever-expanding line of recreation and racing sailboats, pedal-driven and paddle sit-on-top recreation and fishing kayaks, inflatable kayaks, fishing boats, surfboards, stand-up paddleboards and the new Hobie Mirage Eclipse™ Standup pedalboards, plus a complementary array of parts and accessories. www.hobiecat.com
For more info: Contact Ingrid Niehaus, (949) 499-2225, iniehaus@hobiecat.com